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Climate Change

Civil Disobedience

About a year ago, Al Gore urged citizens to take direct action and called for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal-fired power plants. 

It seems that a group of activists in West Virginia are taking this call to heart. Via ItsGettingHotinHere, activists from the group ClimateGroundZero are staging a blockade at the headquarters of coal giant the Massey Energy Company. Four activists, ranging in age from 22 to 81 are blocking the road to Massey Energy headquarters to protest the companies practice of Mountain Top Removal mining, a particularly vile method of mining.  

Daryl Hannah and Climate scientist James Hansen were arrested in a similar protest in West Virginia earlier this summer. 

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Brothers Miliband take the climate show on the road

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband and his brother, Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband are sounding the alarm that a climate deal in Copenhagen in December may fall apart unless countries get their act together. 

David Miliband told reporters in London that the complexity of negotiations and disputes between industrialized and developing nations over cuts to emissions threaten to scupper a deal.

“The deal the world needs in Copenhagen is now in the balance,” he said. “There’s a real danger the talks scheduled for December will not reach a positive outcome, and an equal danger in the run-up to Copenhagen that people don’t wake up to the danger of failure until it’s too late.”

Here is David Miliband explaining some of the international security risks of unabated global warming.

 

That’s his brother to the left. The two are taking this presentation to a number of European cities this week and are in the midst of a big media push. All the power to them.

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A snapshot of the Climate landscape in two articles

Reading the NY Times this morning after the long weekend, I was immediately struck by two stories that seem to encapsulate the lay of the land in the lead up to the climate negotiations in Copenhagen. Spoiler alert: the message will be that we need to get in gear. But I’m going to keep driving that home.

First story, Yukio Hatoyama, the presumptive PM of Japan, according to the NY Times headline, has repeated his campaign pledge to cut emissions from 1990 levels by 25 percent in the next decade, a major commitment given the lack of action by others.  One small caveat, it’s contingent on commitments from other major polluters — less than completely helpful.  Nevertheless, you have to respect his flying in the face of a government report that said such a reduction could lead to the loss of 90 million jobs in Japan at a time when it’s suffering through a tough recession.

Now let’s leave the land of conditional commitments and climate politics where the argument is largely academic at this point and start getting real.  Second story, with a crushing headline: “Lush Land Dries Up, Withering Kenya’s Hopes.” I imagine you can imagine where this is going.  A wrath-of-God-level drought is sweeping Kenya, “killing livestock, crops, and children.” WFP has said that 4 million need food and that “red lights are flashing across the country.”  This is wrecking the two main industries in Kenya, agriculture and tourism — big game is “keeling over from hunger” — which, of course, inflames an already fragile political situation.  This article goes into greater detail about the devastation and makes a more explicit connection to climate change, but I think you get the picture.

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The political imperative of Copenhagen

The British embassy here in Washington is soliciting opinions on why action must be taken to curb climate change.  The project is called 100 voices in 100 days, and in the months leading up to international climate change negotiations in Copenhagen the British foreign office is highlighting these opinions on their blog.  

Here’s my take, shot on location in Dupont Circle.

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Grab a paintbrush and geo-engineer

In addition to planting fake plastic trees, another simple “geo-engineering” measure, suggests Brad Plumer (via Yglesias), is to “paint all our roofs white, reflecting more of the sun’s heat and cooling the Earth.”

This obviously makes sense, and along with other standard home modification measures (solar panels, high-efficiency lighting, etc.), as well as some that are probably more instinctively unpopular — the fetish of having a perfectly green lawn (and not in the environmental sense) is not lying to die out soon — painting roofs while is indeed a “total no-brainer” in terms of reducing our environmental impact. The problem, as Matt recognizes, is that the farther that the geo-engineering scale tips toward the drastic (or the ridiculous), the less vigorously politicians feel compelled to push for costly reductions in carbon emissions.

The point of trying to reclaim the term “geo-engineering” from the province of futuristic tubes pumping sulfur dioxide into the air does seem worthwhile. If it’s about painting houses, everyone can be a “geo-engineer,” and maybe we won’t have to worry as much about those rogue environmentalist billionaires.

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RedState confuses strategy and policy in climate article

RedState commits a major misread of a Bloomberg article yesterday in which UN Foundation President (and former Clinton climate negotiator) Tim Wirth lays out the most salient strategy for passage of a climate bill in the U.S. Congress.  Bending the conversation for his own ideology (and misspelling “Wirth” three times in the process) Caleb Howe suggests — no, repeats in italics — that Senator Wirth thinks the bill is too broad as a matter of policy (not political strategy) and would not support the bill as such.

Presumably Howe knows the difference between when someone in the political sphere is discussing practical strategy (i.e. a “process story”) and when they’re advocating a position, but he doesn’t exhibit that precision here.  Though the Bloomberg piece isn’t very clear, logic would indicate the former in this case, particularly when, in a easily retrievable statement on the UN Foundation website, Wirth clearly says, “[Waxman-Markey] is the first step toward an energy policy for the 21st century. It will lead to technical innovation, good domestic jobs, less use of oil and more protection of the world we live in.” Sounds like support to me.

To be more clear, Wirth sent a letter around today in which he wrote:

Legislation in the Senate is the second step. The Senate will require a different combination to unlock the necessary votes to pass this critical legislation this year.  As noted in the Bloomberg story, I have repeatedly argued that to win passage, legislation must include a number of important elements: very strong efficiency standards, agriculture-related provisions, a package for nuclear power, a carbon emissions standard for new power generation, and a strong natural gas piece.

In other words, because “Senate passage of legislation is absolutely essential for U.S. security, economic and climate interests,” the Senate needs to do whatever it can to get the strongest bill it can passed. Due to the recent developments that Howe mentions in the first few words of the post, that might mean trimming the fat — as Wirth advocates.

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